Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Portland Land.

Warning. Nothing really soccer related here, just a trip update. Safe to skip, for sure.

For a better account, check out what Ben wrote up.

Well then, that was a fun little trip.

I actually hadn't planned on going at all in the first place until I found out I could actually piggy back the whole thing on top of a business trip, which worked out great. I flew out on Thursday, routing through Chicago, unfortunately. I hate flying east to go west. But it worked out mostly fine in the end. Got into Portland late, opted to eat at a Buffalo Wild Wings by my hotel instead of going downtown, which may have been a mistake. Not that anything was bad (for the record, Thai curry wings are excellent), but I'd later learn that downtown Portland was awesome.

Also, apparently, there was some sort of convention in town and no hotels to be had anywhere, so I was sort of stuck out by the airport. The good news was, they were overbooked and had to stick me in a three room suite. Oh the horror.

So Friday. Woke up very early. Like, 4:00 AM early. 6:00 AM Central, true, but even with a new kid I can usually make it until at least 7:00. So I sort of forced myself to lay in bed, with mixed results, but I was up and wide awake, so I made my way out to the harbor. This trip was scheduled real well actually, as the Dred Essayons was actually in port. We do a lot of the harbor and channel work along the West Coast, and let me tell you, the Essayons is a really impressive vessel. Bigger than I thought, even, and in great shape for something that works as hard as it does.

So work went well. Went out after and had a meal at the Bridgeport Brewing Company and would definitely recomend. Great pizza, excellent beer.

Afterwards I met up with the rest of the Cauldron crew that had made the trip as well as the girls and guys from the Timber's Army at The Bitter End. And yes, I am just link bombing at this point, but these places deserve a notice if you're in the area.

Yes though, much love to everyone with the Timber's supporters. Great bunch of people, very welcoming and inviting, and I'd love to buy em each a beer in Kansas City next year.

Hotel, then sleep, then up again at 4:00. Groan. Wound up walking around Cascade Station by the hotel for a little bit. Accidentally wandered into a car show. Not a big car guy or anything, but it was sort of cool.

Wound up getting a nice bottle of Oregon wine for the wife out there too, but by then it was time to head downtown. I thought I had big plans, but the light rail got me off in the middle of the Saturday market and I had to wander around. Their market reminded me of essentially taking each small local market Kansas City had and combining it with City Market, and then moving it a bit closer to the river. It was really cool. Actually, a lot of Portland reminded me of just a more condensed version of Kansas City. Nothing really seemed bigger or better, everything was just closer and more condensed, which I definitely liked.

After the market I started to wander towards Jeld-Wen and saw a bar with GolTV on, so I figured I had to stop. Admittedly, I normally wouldn't venture into a place called the MVP Sports Bar, but I was really impressed. They had the River Plate game on, great beer, and apparently their food menu was mostly Thai food, which was awesome. Met a cool girl and her boyfriend who were soccer nuts and wound up talking to them for longer than I meant to (missed a chance to see the Japanese garden) and a few beers later it was game time.

Met up with everyone back at The Bitter End and we started our long meander towards the stadium. We took the long way (3.5 blocks around instead of 0.5 blocks the other way.. and not short blocks...).

It was worth it. I guess? No matter.

Jeld-Wen itself was really cool. It had kind of a Wrigely feel to it. Which in one way is really cool. In the other way, it definitely felt old and in need of some love. I actually think I'm just spoiled by Livestrong. And I don't mean to take anything away from Jeld-Wen. It's gotta be one of the best parks in MLS and I'd love to go back.

So the game. Yeah... maybe the one low-light of the trip. Not that I even mind the loss, but it just wasn't a well played game by either side. I think we looked poor because we were gassed. I think Portland looked poor because... well, they just didn't look like all that great of a team. Chance Myers with the only goal of the game, an own goal, to seal it 1-0 for Portland. I do think the Timber's Army should send Chance the hunk of wood they cut for the goal though. Nice little parting gift.

And I will say, seeing TA out there doing their thing was really impressive. I'd definitely love to see what the Cauldron could do at Livestrong given a bigger stand, but Portland really is a soccer city and they represented well.

Game over, back across the street for a few more beers. Totally packed with Timber's folks again, and 99% of them awesome to talk to. The one negative was that by 11:00 I was ready to head back and started asking for cab advice. The few people I talked to insisted I take the light rail back, to save money and it wouldn't take much longer and so forth... well, I was a good dozen beers into my night at that point so took their advice and headed off to the red line station. No one mentioned the red line stopped running half an hour ago.

So, between walking, waiting, realizing what was up, finding my way back, and grabbing a cab, I wasted an hour of sleep I could have used. Finally slept till 9:00 though, which was great.

Good flight home, happy to be back, and would love to go again. All around an excellent trip and one I'd love to make again in two years. Really, there's a bunch of more detail and minutiae that I didn't get into here. Just wanted to dump some photos. And much thanks to Sam Pierron and Sean Dane for everything they did to coordinate things.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Oh. It's you.

So April's not entirely over for all of us, but given that there's no game until May I figure I might as well crunch some stats and figure out another Man of the Month type thing. So I did. And this is it. And once again, I don't think it's much of a surprise.

Aurelien Collin is heads above the rest. Get it. Heads? A header joke? He scores goals with his head? Anyway, I was almost tempted to just say screw it, the whole defence get's it, but Collin has figured his way into set piece offence now in a Jimmy Conrad-esque way. With his defending and a couple of goals in April he definitely earns it.

Here's the full ratings for April. Remember, these are normalized to 5.0, so roughly half the players will be below that. It doesn't neccessary mean they're playing poorly, just that compared to the rest of the team they've added less value.

Jimmy Nielsen5.7
Aurelien Collin7.0
Matt Besler5.9
Seth Sinovic5.6
Chance Myers5.7
Lawrence Olum3.5
Graham Zusi5.8
Julio Cesar4.4
Bobby Convey4.9
Roger Espinzoa4.9
Jacob Peterson3.7
Paolo Nagamura3.9
Kei Kamara5.3
CJ Sapong4.9
Teal Bunbury3.7

Don't rate the player, rate the game

Had a great time in Portland. Only thing that could have gone better was a better result. I'll probably track down some links to other peoples analysis and take aways as far as the game is concerned. My only thoughts were that we looked like we played poor because we were gassed and Portland played poor because they're just not that good.

It wasn't all that great of a game, though the last 5-10 minutes got to be tense. All in all though I still feel like this is a great team. If we're going to lose 1 game out of 8 and the only goal scored on us in that game is a really crazy own goal, I'll take it every year. Our defense is still playing awesome.

At any rate, here's some player ratings. Since we've never lost before I wasn't sure if I should keep Man of the Match to SKC or whoever played best overall. I guess we'll say overall. In that case, Troy Perkins gets the knod for leading Portland to a clean sheet and a win with a couple of good saves.

For SKC Graham Zusi get's some love, and all in all the defense wasn't too bad, especially Mr. Nielsen, who made some great stops as well.

Portland Timbers
Troy Perkins7.1
Eric Brunner6.7
Lovel Palmer5.8
Hanyer Mosquera6.7
Mike Chabla6.3
Steve Purdy6.3
Darlington Nagbe5.4
Eric Alexander4.1
Jack Jewsbury5.8
Diego Chara5.8
Franck Songo'o4.1
Frederick Braun4.1
Kris Boyd3.6
Jorge Perlaza4.5
Sporting Kansas City
Jimmy Nielsen4.9
Aurelien Collin4.5
Matt Besler4.9
Chance Myers3.6
Seth Sinovic4.9
Graham Zusi5.4
Roger Espinoza4.5
Bobby Convey4.5
Julio Cesar4.5
Paolo Nagamura4.1
Kei Kamara4.5
CJ Sapong4.5
Teal Bunbry4.1

Garden of bones

Allright, another week, another set of semi arbitrary numbers. It looks like things are starting to flush out pretty well. Colorado has dropped to about where they should be. Chicago stays a bit higher than perhaps they should be after beating Toronto, and RSL drops some after losing to San Jose, though it should be noted that two of their 3 losses this year have come against arguablly the best teams in the league. Here's how we're looking after week 7.

Still not sure if I want to move the average to the last 5 or not, but given the movement I saw I still think it's okay for now...

TeamRankThis Week/Last WeekRatingThis Week/Last Week
Kansas City102.875-0.875
San Jose204.750+0.536
Salt Lake City4-27.125-1.554
New York508.500-0.786
New England17-214.750-0.607

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Just finishing up packing for Portland and about to go get my haircut, but I figured I'd drop some spreadsheet player ratings for the Vancouver game quick.

Vancouver Whitecaps
Joe Cannon4.7
Jay Demerit4.3
Lee Young-Pyo5.2
Martin Bonjour3.4
Jordan Harvey4.7
Davide Chiumiento5.2
Gershon Koffie5.2
John Thorrington5.2
Sebastien le Toux7.4
Camilo Da Silva Sanvezzo3.8
Eric Hassli3.8
Long Tan4.3
Atiba Harris4.7
Omar Salgao4.7
Sporting KC
Jimmy Nielsen5.6
Aurelien Collin7.4
Matt Besler5.6
Chance Myers6.1
Seth Sinovic5.2
Lawrence Olum4.3
Graham Zusi4.7
Roger Espinzoa5.6
Bobby Convey4.3
Paolo Nagamura4.7
Jacob Peterson4.3
Kei Kamara7.0
CJ Sapong4.7
Teal Bunbry4.3

And, once more, the Man of the Match is the Frenchman, Mr. Collin. I've honestly got to wonder if he's on the French national team radar at this point... lights out defending and tied for most goals for the team. As people are saying over on BS, pay the man.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Draw something.

Oh man, you're not going to like this at all...

Parsing the WPL numbers over lunch and was a bit surprised at just how much disagreement there is over this weeks games. So much so I even considered tweaking the formula, before realizing that even in the next notch down there would still be more than half of the matches predicted for draws. As such, I left it as is, and anticipate a wild week of come from behind draws and some crazy frantic actions. However, there is one result people seem to agree on, which for me was just as surprising...

What was it? Read on.

Here we go.

DC and Montreal draw.
Vancouver and Kansas City draw.
Toronto and Chicago draw.
Columbus and Houston draw.
Colorado and LA draw.
Vancouver and Dallas draw.
Portland and Kansas City draw.
Chivas and Phildelphia draw.
San Jose beats Salt Lake City by 1 goal.
DC and New York draw.

I don't know what the record for draws in a week is, but I can tell you the next few days will be interesting.

Anyway, I'm off to Portland tomorrow for just my second away game ever, so I'm super excited. Much more to come next week, and here's to hoping for a win tonight.

In all honesty, I'm okay with draws here. Playing road games on short rest will always be tough and if we can grind it out and just not lose we've got a week off next week. Also, after this week, SKC will be two thirds of their way finished playing "tougher" Western teams. While I don't much buy that the Western conference is superior, it does mean less travel to the West coast, which I think is a bit of a good thing.

Anyway, 2 points from two games this week would be okay. 3 would be better. 4 better still and 6 would be amasin'.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hypergeometric statistics are fun

I got curious the other day to see just what the odds of the recent 6-0-0 run were. More specifically, is it possible that SKC is just an average team who have gotten lucky? In the end, of course, it depends on how you define luck, but the math is pretty easy to work out. Assuming an "average" team plays like a 3 sided coin and wins 1/3rd of the time, draws 1/3rd of the time, and loses 1/3rd of a time, it's pretty easy to see that the odds of six in a row is (1/3)^6, 0.0014, or 0.14%. That's really small. It would be expected to happen only once every 714 runs of six games, assuming they're truly an average team. Of course you could have a run of six games every time. Assuming a 36 game season, this would happen about once every 20 years. Since the league has been around 16 years, it would stand to reason that over the course of the league's history, this would happen about once. That it's happened twice now (LA in '96 did it first) isn't really all that surprising when looking at the league as a whole. But really, for any team to do it is pretty remarkable, and I think it's much more likely to be the case that SKC isn't just lucky, but good.

To go a little further, he's a breakdown of how the league would look with true parity (i.e. each team wins 1/3rd of the time, draws 1/3rd of the time and loses 1/3rd of the time).

Expected # of teams
Full Teams

See that blip on the far right? That's SKC. Now, obviously we don't have fractional teams, so here's how we'd look with full teams only.

Pretty boring, huh?

Well, that's all fine and good, but I decided to try to play with the percentages to see what win-draw-loss rates would give SKC a reasonable chance to go 6-0-0. The percentrages all feed in to the hypergeometric distribution as such.

 Initially I used 1/3rd for each probability, but adjusting the wins % lets you play with the odds. To go from 0.14% to a reasonable probability, in this case I chose 5% (i.e. there's a 20-1 chance that SKC goes 6-0-0), I needed to adjust the win proability from 33% to 60.7%. I left draw and loss probabilities equal to each other, so they came out as 19.65% each.

Basically, what it looks like from six games so far is that Kansas City should win about 60% of their matches, and not win the remaining 40%. If we break it up equal as draws and losses we can then come up with some predicted points. Let's look at the conservative case first, in which they win 60% and lose 40%.

Based on where they are now, with 18 points and 28 matches to go, assuming they win 60% of the remaining matches (28 *0.6) would give them 16.8 wins. Let's round down to 16 and say they earn 48 more points, putting them at 66 points.

In 2011, LA won the shield (and the MLS Cup) on 67 points, and some took to asking if they were the best MLS team ever.

Now let's add draws in. 16 wins out of 28 means 12 not wins. Split those evening and we get 6 draws, or 6 more points. So, 6 + 67 would put SKC on 73 points at the end of the season.

To be clear, I don't neccessarily think SKC is a 60%-20%-20% over the course of the season, but I think they're definitely playing like it right now. With the road trip to Vancouver and Portland on short rest this week we might to start seeing some early injuries, and summer months in the US can really beat on a team physically. Their depth is going to be tested, for sure, but right now, SKC looks to be on pace to flirt with a 70 points season.

In short, I don't think this is some kind of statistical fluke. After beating RSL last week, I really think this team is the real deal.